March: Book One – Comic Analysis

Local comic book artist Greg Stump, visited with our book club in January to discuss the graphic novel, March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin along with illustrator  Nate Powell. For more information on that book club meeting, check out this post.

Part of his presentation included analyzing the various illustrative techniques and how they were used to enrich the story, allowing readers to make powerful inferences based on visual cues. Stump’s commentary is included underneath each page from the book.

marchone

This is the opening page of the book and a good example of using a large scene/panel that dominates the page as a way of emphasizing the place/setting (in this case the bridge where the police confronted/attacked the activists). It’s always a sound strategy to emphasize the setting at the start of a story, and in this case it makes even more sense to do so because the detail imbued in the drawing makes it more vivid — it puts us there so we can feel more viscerally the significance of the moment. The fact that the first panel is borderless and “bleeds” towards the edges of the page adds to its standing apart from the panels that follow.

marchtwo

Lots of horizontal panels on this page also give a sense of place … e.g. the countryside, and its vast wide horizons, are complemented by the panels and their structure. the swooping diagonal lines help keep this layout from feeling static, since it’s a scene with some urgency (the bus is coming fast and Lewis needs to rush to catch it).

marchthree

Here’s another example of form mirroring content, though in this case the orientation is vertical rather than horizontal. Similar to the first page, this city scene employs bleeds (here all the way off the page), as well as an unusual slanted perspective, to make it stand out from what has come before it, and to put us in the perspective of Lewis’ eyes … we see the startling bigness of the buildings just as he does partly because this scene is more immense than the scenes in the book that have preceded it.

marchfour

There’s a visual rhythm here to the three panels arranged in a vertical sequence that seems to echo MLK’s speech patterns. Repetition of elements (the hand and forearm), structure (all panels are the same shape and size) and composition (the hand is in the same spot three times) makes the content/point striking and more emphatic, and that is amplified by the repetition of the four word phrases (“the evil of racism, the evil of poverty, the evil of war”).

marchfive

This sequence, featuring the role-playing the activists do to prepare themselves for the abuse they’ll face in the course of their protests, is striking for the all-black background that surrounds the entire page, probably to emphasize and reinforce that they are exploring the “dark side” of humanity in taking on these roles.

 

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